- A Commentary (Oct 1924)
- The Johns Hopkins University Press and Faber & Faber Ltd
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[ 539 A Commentary1 The Criterion: A Quarterly Review, 3 (Oct 1924) 1-5 Joseph Conrad No periodical which professes a devotion to literature could neglect to associate itself with the general regret at the death of a writer who was beyond question a great novelist, and who possessed the modesty and the conviction which a great writer should have. Conrad’s reputation is as secure as that of any writer of his time: critical analysis may adjust, but it will not diminish. He is now a permanent subject for critical study; the article in this number of The Criterion by Mr. Shand – which was written and accepted for publication while Conrad was still alive – will in time be followed by others considering various aspects of the novelist’s work.2 Francis Herbert Bradley Those who belittle the importance of Oxford in the modern world should hesitate over the names of Arnold, Newman, Pater, and Bradley.3 None of these writers has had, or could have, the prodigious popularity and apparent influence of the author of Sartor Resartus, or the kingdoms of this world which have been conveyed to Mr. H. G. Wells and Mr. Bernard Shaw. They worked in comparative obscurity, or in the deceptive certainty of moderate success. But their intentions were not squandered upon their generation; and, in the gradual dissolution of nineteenth-century ideas and ideals, theirs are amongst the names which carry the most promise of future power. Francis Herbert Bradley is dead: our contemporaries will no doubt record the fact respectfully, as the death of the last survivor of the academic race of metaphysicians, and will hurry on to the discussion of the latest scientific novelty.4 It is not for his achievements in his time that I wish to honour Bradley; not even as the man who broke the authority of Mill, or as the man who restored the rank of Britain amongst philosophers.5 I am engaged with the future. The reserved power of Bradley’s philosophy resides perhaps herein: that, with all his apparent debt to Hegel, his philosophy is quite unaffected by the emotional obliquities which render 1924 540 ] German metaphysics monstrous. His philosophy is English; but in a different style from that of the brilliant Cambridge school which is in the tradition of Locke and of Hume, of Rousseau and of the French rationalists. Bradley was a scholar and fellow of the reputed college of a great mediaeval scholastic; this is a mere anecdote, but it is true that his philosophy preserves some of the sweetness and light of the mediaeval schoolmen.6 Who shall say that it does not draw some of its virtue from the genius of the place with which it is associated? Few will ever take the pains to study the consummate art of Bradley’s style, the finest philosophic style in our language, in which acute intellect and passionate feeling preserve a classic balance: only those who will surrender patient years to the understanding of his meaning. But upon these few, both living and unborn, his writings perform that mysterious and complete operation which transmutes not one department of thought only, but the whole intellectual and emotional tone of their being. To them, in the living generation, the news of his death has brought an intimate and private grief. Shortly before his death Bradley received the Order of Merit: he was one of the very few who could bestow upon that order more distinction than they receive from it. There is, at this moment, one possible successor of whom we could say the same; and that is Sir James George Frazer.7 The British Association The Addresses delivered during this summer before the Meetings of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, at Toronto, have recently been published.8 These addresses always form a document of general importance, though an uninstructed reader can hardly be expected to derive much knowledge from so technical a paper as that of Sir W. H. Bragg on Crystal Analysis.9 And, from the point of view of the same reader, too many of the papers this year deal with applied science instead of universal conclusions. But there are at least two which in spite of repellant titles can excite lively speculation in any intelligent mind: Professor F. W. Gamble’s on “Construction and Control in Animal Life” and Sir W. Ashley’s on “A Retrospect of Free Trade Doctrine.”10 No doubt, there never was a time more...